Music for Weddings

Music is a powerful element in any video, but wedding video offers a unique challenge. As an editor, you have to balance the look and feel of the wedding with the personality of the couple and, at the same time, provide a product that marks the day with some staying power for future viewings. Knowing what to use, when to use it and how it all ties together works not only for wedding videos, but pretty much any video you create.

Music Sources

Let’s get this out of the way right now; you can’t just throw any song from your iTunes library in the video. Here’s a scenario. You shoot a wedding one weekend and, after hours of editing a ‘Best Of’ video, you pick a song to put underneath it all and upload the whole thing to YouTube. You send the bride a link to the video and move on to the next project. Several days later, you get a call from a frantic bride who tells you the video isn’t on YouTube anymore and she’s already sent the link to friends and relatives all over the world. You check the link yourself and, sure enough, the video has been removed for copyright infringement. Maybe that Colbie Caillat song wasn’t a good idea after all.

The simple fact is that you’ll be using buyout music, licensed content or original music in your wedding video if you want to stay on the good side of the copyright police. There are plenty of good choices available today from a variety of vendors. Just Google “buyout music” or “royalty-free music” to start your search. Many vendors offer wedding-specific libraries – just be prepared for classical knock-offs and fairly traditional material. On the upside, you can sample the libraries before purchase and a little research will provide several choices. (Videomaker has a good collection of advertisers that publish buyout and royalty-free music for weddings, among other genres.)


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In addition, there are several new music licensing services available to the video producer. For starters, check out Rumblefish, Jamendo and ccMixter, just to name a few. These services exist to make it easier for video producers to include legal music in their projects. Prices range from ‘free forever’ to several hundred dollars per track, but now it’s possible to find unique, original music and include it in your project. We’ll explore this new development in more detail next month in the June 2011 Audio Column. In the meantime, do some research and explore the possibilities.

Picking the Right Track

There is a new fad in wedding video, generically called the Wedding Trailer. It’s just what it sounds like; a quick cut of wedding highlights, two to three minutes long with credits at the end. Just like a movie trailer. These fun, fast videos offer some near-instant gratification for couples and provide a nice, compact way to show the wedding on video sharing services. And, just like a movie trailer, these pieces need some background music. This is the perfect opportunity for the editor to flavor the mood of the piece with a music cut. If you’re familiar with these videos, you’ve probably noticed a trend toward laid-back acoustic singer/songwriter music. You could certainly follow that trend, but there are many other options.

For inspiration, consider taking your cues from music played during the ceremony or reception. This should give you a hint about the couple’s musical tastes or thoughts on the day. At the very least, staying in a similar genre will provide musical unity between the documentary and creative sides of the project. Compare what you hear with your available music library or online services. You’ll find something that fits.

Music selection is a fine line to walk. It has to mesh with the onscreen content in some way without calling attention to itself. After all, the wedding video is about the couple and their wedding, not your mad editing skills. In addition, you don’t need music for every frame of the video. Sometimes, allowing the images and natural sound to speak for themselves is more powerful than any track you could include. Look and listen in context, keeping in mind that the couple could be watching for the rest of their lives. No pressure – you’ll find the balance eventually.

Creative Editing

It’s one thing to gather appropriate music for a wedding video. It’s quite another to actually edit it into the project. Depending on the type of video you’re creating, there could be several possibilities. For instance, if you’re just shooting the ceremony alone, and presenting it as a simple document of the event, you might not need much music. A bit of music at the beginning and end of the video along with a matching clip for the DVD menu, then the rest of the video would have natural sound of the event. Your music selection should absolutely match the feel of the ceremony and simple fades are all that’s necessary. However, if you’re creating a more elaborate production, music will be more important. Music can transform a somber ceremony into a celebration. Careful shooting and editing, along with good music choices can turn a wild reception into a more dignified affair – at least on the video. Grafting the music into the video requires the right combination of selection, placement and editing. Cutting the video to the music can help. Using the tempo and style of the music as a guide, the cuts happen naturally and will give your video a polished look. You won’t likely use entire songs for this type of edit, so listen closely to the whole song and choose sections you think will work well with your raw footage. And, if you’re wrong, there’s always the Undo button.

If you’re editing a wedding trailer, music selection comes down to one or two carefully chosen pieces. These should probably reflect the vibe of the couple more than the feel of the event. You want this type of piece to stand alone so you’ll be using most of the song or songs. The visuals need to flow with the music to make an organic whole – not to be too touchy-feely here, but this seems to be the way these things work right now.

Give it a Go

Weddings can be intimidating. It’s a one-shot event without retakes or pickups. You have to get it all on the day. As an editor, you’ll be rummaging through hours of raw footage to find those special moments every couple wants to preserve. Adding the right music to the mix ties the whole project together in a way simple cuts and dissolves never can. Choose your music carefully and don’t get too frustrated if it isn’t working. You have lots of musical choices today and there’s something out there that fits your project.

Sidebar: Juxtaposition

While you probably wouldn’t use bluegrass music on a classy high-end wedding video, you can use contrasting music styles to provide a unique flavor. Not only will it provide variety, it also serves to break up the video sonically. Consider a time-lapse sequence of the venue setup or of the bride or groom getting ready. Rather than the obvious “Flight of the Bumblebee” music choice, why not pick some hard driving rock? You might choose some busy drums or percussion – anything that contrasts beauty of the day. OK. I guess you could use bluegrass too, now that I think of it.

Contributing Editor Hal Robertson is a digital media producer and technology consultant.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.